Local Hockey: Be A Player: Path to the Pros
Find out the different paths you can take to become an NHL player.
Find out the different paths you can take to become an NHL player.
- Path to the Pros
- Learn to Skate
Learn to skate programs introduce participants to the basics of ice skating. Participants can choose to wear ice hockey or figure skates depending on their preference. Some of the skills that are covered in a learn-to-skate class are balance, turning and stopping. Check out the learn-to-skate classes at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and other local rinks by Clicking Here.
- Learn to Play
Most learn-to-play programs begin after a child has graduated from a beginner level learn-to-skate program. Learn to play programs focus on the basics of hockey including how to hold the stick, proper shooting and passing technique and the positional play. For information on local learn-to-play programs near you Click Here.
- Youth House Hockey
House hockey provides kids age 5 to18 with a local hockey program that doesn’t involve traveling. House hockey provides leagues at all the age groups but at a common skill level. House is a great, less expensive way to introduce young players to the game. For more information on local house leagues, Click Here
- Youth Travel Club Hockey
Youth club hockey provides players ages 5 to18 with a level of play more competitive than house-level programs and involves traveling to play against other teams in their league at different rinks or across the country on occasion. Travel hockey is usually more expensive than house hockey but tends to give the participant better coaching, development and opportunities to move on to the next level. Travel hockey is broken into six age groups; mites (ages 8 and younger), squirt (ages 9-10), peewee (ages 11-12), bantam (ages 13-14), midget U16 and midget U18. Each of these age groups are then separated by skill level. The highest level is Tier I (or AAA), then AA, A, B, and C. The names of each level vary from league to league. The travel league for the DC area is the Capital Beltway Hockey League (CBHL). In general, most of the teams in this league are within an hour of the Beltway. For more information on travel hockey or individual clubs, Click Here to see the list of local youth hockey clubs.
- High School Hockey
High School level hockey provides interscholastic matchups between high schools in a specified region. There are many leagues across the country at various skill levels. Some leagues feature varsity school-sponsored teams, while others are made up of club teams. In the D.C. metro area, there are three high school leagues. The Maryland Scholastic Hockey League (MSHL), the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League (NVSHL) and the Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League (MAPHL). The MSHL and NVSHL are at the club level, while the MAPHL has school-sponsored teams.
- American Junior A Leagues
There are 12 Junior A leagues (one Tier I, one Tier II, six Tier III, and four Independents) that offer a competitive level of competition for 15-to-20-year-old hockey players in the U.S. There are three divisions, called “Tiers,” which separate the various leagues by skill level, with Tier I being the most skilled. Tier I teams compete in the United States Hockey League (USHL), Tier II teams compete in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), and Tier III teams compete in the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL), Central States Hockey League (CSHL), Minnesota Junior Hockey League (MJHL), Northern Pacific Hockey League (NPHL), Western States Hockey League (WSHL) and Atlantic Junior Hockey League (AJHL). The Independent leagues are the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League, Northern Junior Hockey League (NJHL), United Junior Hockey League (UJHL), International Junior Hockey League (IJHL).
- College Hockey
- NCAA Hockey
NCAA hockey features amateur leagues made up of three, skill-based divisions in which American college teams compete. The highest skilled division is Division I, followed by Division II, and Division III. Some teams offer athletic scholarships for the varsity level programs. Also, many colleges offer club level teams, which are broken into three skill divisions (I, II and III) and 27 conferences (seven Division I, 10 Division II and 10 Division III).
- Division I Hockey
Division I hockey features the best male and female collegiate players in the U.S. Division I hockey consists of 59 men’s and 34 women’s programs and is broken into six conferences: the Atlantic Hockey Conference, Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), Collegiate Hockey America, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), Hockey East and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). All Division I teams are permitted to grant 18 full scholarships to deserving players, accounting for about 190 scholarships per year. Current Capitals, Mike Knuble (Michigan), David Steckel (Ohio State), and Tom Poti (Boston University) played Division I hockey. Capitals General Manager George McPhee played college hockey at Bowling Green University where he won the Hobey Baker Award as the Nation’s best college hockey player in 1982.
- Division II Hockey
Division II hockey consists of seven men’s & two women’s collegiate programs. Division II may offer 13.5 full male scholarships and 18 full female scholarships per team. Due to the small amount of teams in Division II, there is no NCAA championship for this division.
- Division III Hockey
Division III hockey consists of 70 men’s & 50 women’s collegiate programs hailing from the North Eastern Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC), Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) and various Independents. Division III programs offer no athletic scholarships.
- Minor Professional
Originally founded in 1988 as the East Coast Hockey League, The ECHL is a minor professional league comprised of 20 teams, such as Capitals’ affiliate and three-time Kelly Cup champion South Carolina Stingrays. The ECHL is often used by NHL teams to develop prospects. When ECHL players are ready to transition to the next level, they typically go from the ECHL to the AHL and then to the NHL.
- American Hockey League (AHL)
Founded in 1936 The AHL serves as the main development league for NHL prospects and is considered the premier minor professional league in North America. The AHL is comprised of 29 teams, including the Capitals’ affiliate and Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears. Currently 29 of 30 NHL teams have affiliations with an AHL team.
- National Hockey League (NHL)
Founded in 1917 the NHL features 30 of the most talented teams in the world, such as our very own Washington Capitals, and is considered the premier hockey league in the world. Each year teams compete to win the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.
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